Mid East Quartet meets amid violence

Mid East Quartet meets amid violence

Top officials of the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East conflict -- the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations -- held talks yesterday amid heightened Israeli-Palestinian clashes killing five in Gaza.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met at the UN headquarters. EU foreign affairs representative Catherine Ashton joined by video-conference.

Clinton condemned rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into southern Israel and called on all sides to try to restore calm.

The talks came as Israeli warplanes pounded the Gaza Strip for a fourth day, killing five more Palestinians and raising the toll to 24 dead. Israel said it is hitting back at scores of rocket attacks from Gaza. At a news conference in Gaza City yesterday, masked members of Islamic Jihad’s military wing demanded Israel cease fire first and stop targeting militants. “We warn the leaders of the enemy of the consequences of testing our patience. Our patience is limited and shall be turned into fire and destruction upon them,” one of the masked men said. Chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said Israel would halt its raids if the rocket fire stopped, but added that the Israeli military would continue to take pre-emptive action to foil militant attack plans.

No progress on ceasefire

Meanwhile, Egypt has been trying to mediate an end to the clashes, and Hamas has also appealed to other Mideast countries to join the truce attempts. But by yesterday afternoon, there was no sign of progress.

Yesterday, Israeli aircraft swooped down on Gaza 11 times by midday, striking what the military said were rocket-launching sites and a weapons storage facility. Two militants, a 16-year-old high school student, and a 65-year-old man and his 30-year-old daughter were killed in four separate raids, Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said.

The Quartet has been trying to find a negotiated way to set up a Palestinian state. But its efforts have become deadlocked as there have been no direct Palestinian-Israeli peace talks since September 2010.

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.